Updated: Feb 24, 2020
Published Apr 4, 2007
There was a ghost story thread about posessed people dying and taunting the nurses after begging them not to let them die. It inspired the question: How many of you are religious, and do you ever offer to pray for or with a patient whose frightened of dying?
There are a few nurses that I work with who will do this. If they are willing to be with the patient and their family The other nurses will all band together and watch that nurses patients if needed. It is really comforting for them to have someone other than the Clergy/Hospital Chaplain there for them.
This is a touchy subject for me. I still dont know what would be appropriate religiously to say/do with patients. I am conflicted because I am all about total patient care. I do everything I can to make the patient comfortable and as content as possible within the scope of practice. Yet my background is very scientific when it comes to healing and medicine and I tend to look at most things logically. So I dont know how I would react to a patient asking me to pray with them or such.
Im sure nurses with more experience would have some advice on this subject! After all I am still learning the I's and O's of the field!
I work in a Catholic hospital and am a Christian who has prayed many times with patients and patient's families but only when asked. I try my best to separate my personal views and feelings from work. We have chaplains whom I feel can be a little "pushy" with their "religion" as you stated but of course that is their job.
We used to have a very quirky doc that would pray heeling over patients and was well liked by some patients but despised by others because he never asked if the patients wanted it just all of a sudden at the end of your interview with him you had a hand on your head and he would be deep in prayer--even being a Christian that was a little much in my opinion.
I have never personally had an experience with a "ghost" and have a hard time believing in them for myself but I would not try and say there is no such thing as ghosts because I just don't know for sure and have had many people I respect swear that there is.
I am not religious but do believe in God and am spiritual. If I am at the bedside of a dying pt or one who has been pronounced (the usual in the ER) and a clergyman arrives for the pt and family, I will take part in the prayer. If a pt/family asks me to pray with them, I will. I do not suggest anything religious other than to ask if the family would like me to arrange for a priest if the pt is Catholic. I let them bring it up, that way it cannot be said that I influenced them.
I have been nursing for 19 yrs. and the most memorable encounter I ever had was that of an elderly woman that asked me to pray with her. It seems like it was yesterday, even though it was 16 years ago. It surely makes a difference in their life at the time, and many times it does in yours too. AMEN!!!
BrnEyedGirl, BSN, MSN, RN, APRN
I pray for every single dying pt, famlies, et staff caring for the pt,..I only pray with the pt/family if they ask or make it obvious that it would be meaningful to them.
traumaRUs, MSN, APRN
I consider myself a Christian and have prayed with many patients and families but only if they ask. During codes or the act of dying if the clergy are present, I try to step out of the room if possible. However, if during an active code, the talking is kept to a minimum and we just continue our work.
The keys here are "If the patient asks," and "if you are comfortable with praying."
The first because it would be wrong to impose your personal beliefs on someone who does not share those beliefs. This should be obvious, but it isn't always.
The second, if you are asked to pray and are uncomfortable with it, it might dim the experience for the patient. You could always stand quietly with head bowed or holding the patient's hand if they wish, or you could send for a Chaplain if you're truly uncomfortable with it.
I'm an athiest. I don't believe in a higher power. I do have a hefty amount of respect and regard for humanity, and I always try to treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve as fellow human.
I don't pray for people. I do make wishes; I suppose if I were Christian these would be regarded as prayers. Things like "I hope he can just go easily without suffering." or "I hope this medication/treatment is successful."
If a patient asks me to pray with them, I will, to an extent. I will bow my head, clasp my hands, and be silent. I will even hope/wish that their prayers come true. I will say "amen" at the end, if appropriate. If they ask me to pray aloud, or to offer up a prayer, I suppose I would simply say I am not Christian (or whatever), and I would offer to get someone who was or offer to page the Chaplin. If that wasn't an option or didn't seem like the right thing to say at the time, I would probably say something like, "I'm not very good at that sort of thing; could I read you a passage from the Bible?" I've never actually had anyone ask me to pray aloud to them.
I've prayed with all types of Christians, Hare Krishnas, Muslims and Wiccans/Pagans (I'm not sure what the difference is there, I'm a little ignorant on this). I think that if someone asks another to pray with them, they are looking for comfort and support, and I will do everything in my power to provide that.
If a patient tries to discuss religion with me, I just put on my benign face I use for all sorts of discussions I don't think are appropriate for that setting--politics, abortion, etc. I just smile, nod, and make neutral comments. If someone is obviously struggling, and is not just interested in venting about religion or trying to convert me, I will do my best to help them direct their thoughts and offer them as much comfort as I can. If I am in over my head, I would probably again say something like, "I'm not Christian/Muslim/whatever, and I feel like I am perhaps not the best qualified to help you in this way. Is there a spiritual advisor/priest/chaplin/friend whom I can call upon to help you, or would you like to speak with our hospital chaplin?"
Because we take care of humans, and religion is part of most humans' lives, it only seems natural that we as nurses should try to address whatever religious/spiritual needs we can. I don't need to put my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) out there for anyone; but I'm not going to do something I feel very uncomfortable with (lay my hands on someone and ask the Lord to heal them, for example, or recite the Rosary, or something like that). Since I *don't* believe, I think that would be disrespectful. If I can't fulfill a patient's spiritual or religious need, though, then I think it is my job to find someone who can.
Tweety, BSN, RN
Many hospitals are faith-based and it's the expectation the nurses pray with their patients.
I'm not comfortable offering to pray with patients. But I do take cues from them and if they are in need of prayer I will find the chaplain since I work day shift and they are available for that sort of thing.
cyberkat said:The keys here are "If the patient asks," and "if you are comfortable with praying."The first because it would be wrong to impose your personal beliefs on someone who does not share those beliefs. This should be obvious, but it isn't always.The second, if you are asked to pray and are uncomfortable with it, it might dim the experience for the patient. You could always stand quietly with head bowed or holding the patient's hand if they wish, or you could send for a Chaplain if you're truly uncomfortable with it.
There are a couple of issues to be addressed here, I think.
1) Respect for another's beliefs. e.g. Obviously if you have a hindu patient, for example, you don't want to feed them beef for their evening meal. Since Hindus worship cows and other animals, you would be inducing them to act against their conscience and doing them what they consider to be spiritual harm, even if it isn't in fact harming them as far as the practitioner can see.
I've heard of situations where a pagan practitioner has used an occult ritual healing on someone who was Christian. The Christian objected when they found out about it. Clearly, this is uncalled for and hurts the patient who believes such rituals have the ability to harm them. If it also turned out that the Christian worldview is right and the occult wrong, it would hurt anyone, not just a Christian.
2) The good of the patient
Even in the most extreme case of someone afraid of death and going to Hell because they've lived a life of sin, they may react badly to the suggestion that you are willing to pray for them. I don't think offering *once,* possibly *twice* is being pushy. ***Most*** chaplains are good at reading people and know how to encourage people to settle in to the idea of making peace with God. Respect for another's beliefs means that if they are absolutely adamant about not bringing God into the picture after someone has offered, their wishes need to be respected. I've known of priests who have left without praying with the patient under such circumstances, but if one is of the same faith as the person dying, one can still ask God to help them even if the person doesn't know they are doing it. This doesn't contradict what I said about doing something contrary to the person's beliefs because many times a patient has psychological issues that prevent them from knowing what they really want. The key is that the preayer you say shouldn't violate the person's beliefs, if any.
I know of at least one priest who says if he can administer sacraments without being in the way, he will, and I think if a nurse can pray while working without getting distracted and compromising their efficiency, and if they are comfortable with praying according to the patient's religious beliefs, they could silently whisper a prayer for God's Mercy. If the person doesn't believe in God, it could be a big help if they find out they were wrong when they meet him.
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